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Automakers Update Headlights to Meet Tougher IIHS Criteria

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Headlights are important in a vehicle’s overall safety. This is the message the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) wants to send to automakers when it revised the criteria for its Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus awards in 2019.

Since last year, the agency required vehicles to have a Good or Acceptable rating on their standard-issued headlights to earn a Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + recognition. And for the past 12 months, at least 10 automakers have upgraded their headlights to vie for the awards.

“More manufacturers are going to a single headlight package for many 2021 models, which is a big win for consumers,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. “Sometimes, taking an inferior piece of equipment off the market is as important as the invention of a better one.”

fully functioning headlights while driving before sunrise
Based on IIHS’ criteria, headlights are graded based on how well they can illuminate curved and straight roads.

Such is the case for Subaru, which offered multiple headlight options for several of its models like the Outback, Forester, Ascent, and Legacy in 2020. Only one of these options received a Good rating from the IIHS and for the coming model year. For 2021, all the mentioned models will only be offered with one headlight option.

Among the 2021 models tested by the IIHS so far, 10 vehicles managed to snag the higher Top Safety Pick + award (including the Subaru Ascent), thanks to a headlight upgrade. Others on the list are the Audi A7, Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Altima, Toyota Highlander, Volvo S60, Volvo XC40, and Volvo XC60.

Based on IIHS’ criteria, headlights are graded based on how well they can illuminate curved and straight roads. To earn a Good rating, the headlights must be able to illuminate the right side of the road at least 325 feet ahead when on their low setting. Bonus points also given to vehicles with high-beam assist, which can automatically switch between high- and low-beam settings. Meanwhile, points are deducted for headlights that produce a glare that can affect the vision of oncoming drivers.

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